Episodes 1 & 2 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episodes 3 & 4 – | Review Score – 5/5
Episodes 5 & 6 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episodes 7 & 8 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episodes 9 & 10 – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Episode 11 – | Review Score – 4/5
Episode 12– | Review Score – 4.5/5
Normal People is a simple enough drama and revolves around two normal people trying to find love. It’s not necessarily an original concept but where Normal People excels is in its execution. Split across 12 episodes, each clocking in at around 30 minutes each, Normal People follows the trials and tribulations of these two Irish teens, Marianne and Connell, as they navigate life and try to find romance. It’s a beautiful, realistic and at times incredibly moving series that makes the most of its limited run-time to deliver a stunning slice of drama.
The story begins with an introduction to Marianne and Connell in high school. Marianne is a loner with few friends while Connell happens to be comfortable with the popular crowd. With Connell’s Mum Lorraine working at Marianne’s Mum’s house, the two kids form an unlikely bond in the wake of this arrangement and end up getting together.
Of course, with any high school romance these things are fleeting and as school paves way for college, everything changes and what starts as a simple romantic drama blossoms into something far more profound and meaningful. All of this builds to several peaks that see Marianne and Connell constantly gravitating toward one another, ending with an ambiguous finish that leaves things wide open for what the future may hold for our characters.
At the heart of this one is Connell and Marianne and both of these have great chemistry on screen. Their dialogue is meaningful, regularly linking back to previous conversations with supporting characters in the past, while both find themselves shaped by what’s happening around them. All the ups and downs of a usual relationship are here – with heartbreak and euphoria coming in equal waves – while the different stages of their life see them tackling a different demon.
The episodes themselves work off one another, with several “mini-arcs” dotted through the show. The first 3 or 4 episodes gravitate around secondary school while the middle slew of episodes tackle college. The final chapters chronicle those moments of the unknown after graduation and all of this combines to make for a solid journey, both in terms of character and plot progression. On the surface, this tale is a simple will they/won’t they romance but when you dive deeper, there’s something far more profound at the heart of this one.
What’s particularly fascinating though is the way some of these episodes complement one another. Episode 9 focuses on Marianne’s pain while episode 10 hones in on Connell’s depression. Connell’s secondary school popularity contrasts that to his loneliness in college. These juxtapositions and poetic similarities crop up right the way through the show and it’s partly why Normal People works as well as it does beyond the simple surface-level drama. The usual themes surrounding love and heartbreak are here but it’s backed up by the evolving attitude these two have with sex as well.
While some shows use sex as a means of showing lust and throw them into the narrative haphazardly, sex in Normal People is as essential to the story as the dialogue itself. From the awkward first instances of love making as a teenager through to the exploration of different kinks and using it as a means to escape your own pain, Normal People understands this beautifully and anchors each episode around a different lustful state or attitude. This makes the show that much more powerful and every different sex scene adds another layer of meaning to the show.
Normal People is not a Hollywood romance. It’s a fascinating, realistic and well written journey into the love of two Irish teenagers who struggle to find meaning and purpose. It’s a beautiful, poignant and meaningful story, one that leaves us with many questions at the end. The 30 minute chapters are perfectly poised to make this a solid binge-watch but this is also one worth savoring too. While a few of the middle chapters don’t quite hit the same emotional highs as some of the other chapters, there’s enough in this to make Normal People an extraordinary drama and one that’s going to be very difficult to beat in 2020.